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By Devin Voss | @DevinVoss23

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS – As the Oregon State Beavers extended their unexpected journey, coach Wayne Tinkle’s response to a question helps explain how his team is making history.

“Somebody asked me if I was going to be satisfied,” Tinkle said. “Kind of challenged me. You probably are satisfied with Sweet 16, a couple wins…I almost wanted to jump through the phone and knock him out.

“These guys aren’t satisfied,” he went on. “They’re not going to be. We challenged them in the Pac-12 championship. Don’t be satisfied.”

A coach’s challenge and his team’s confident response changed the storyline of the NCAA tournament on Saturday afternoon. Oregon State, the resilient No. 12 seed, the Pacific-12 Conference tournament champions, continued its improbable run. The Beavers, stuck at .500 just five weeks ago, find themselves heading to their first Elite 8 since 1982 with a 65-58 defeat of the eighth-seeded Ramblers of Loyola Chicago.

Oregon State, which started the season 11-11, has built a record of 20-12. The Beavers have been resilient, and patience has been the key. Since the 61-57 loss to Colorado on Feb. 20, the Beavers have rattled off nine wins in their last 10 games. They shocked many by winning the Pac-12 tournament, one which they entered with a 14-12 record. The shocks have continued with upsets of fifth-seeded Tennessee and fourth-seeded Oklahoma State before their win on Saturday afternoon, the seventh straight elimination game in two tournaments.

“You look at all we’ve had to deal with in our time at Oregon State and especially this year, and our guys never wavered,” Tinkle said. “We’ve had some hiccups obviously along the way… the guys just bought in, and I’m proud of them.”

Tinkle emphasized the confidence his team has had during the run and how he believes this team is destined to win, something that has rubbed off on his players.

“I had so much confidence and belief in this group,” Tinkle said. “I knew that this thing — as good as Loyola is, man, as well-coached — I knew this thing was meant to be. I knew we were going to move on.”

This run by the Beavers has been historic for the program. Since the NCAA tournament went to a four-region format in 1952, this will be Oregon State’s sixth appearance in a regional final. The only Elite 8 victory was in 1963 when the Beavers defeated Arizona State before losing to Cincinnati in the Final Four. The victory also marks Oregon State’s third win in an NCAA tournament since their 1982 run to the Elite 8.

In the 12 tournaments since 2009, Oregon State is just the sixth Pac-12 Conference team to reach a regional final. Oregon or USC will reach the Elite 8 by winning on Sunday night. If UCLA can advance to a regional final on Sunday, the Pac-12 would have three teams reach that point for the first time since 2001.

Oregon State’s zone proved to be effective against the Ramblers, a team unfamiliar with zone defenses this season, as the Beavers quickly closed in on passing lanes and disrupted shot attempts inside. However, poor shooting, and smothering defense, accompanied both teams to start the game. Through a period of 9:07, Loyola was 2-for-10 from the field and Oregon State was 1-for-9.

The Beavers’ Ethan Thompson knocked down the game’s first 3-pointer with 10 minutes and 38 seconds left in the half, giving Oregon State some juice in route to a 9-2 run. During that run the presence of the zone was felt as the Ramblers were held scoreless for a stretch of 6:08. The first of many scoring droughts the Ramblers would face throughout the game.

“They’re very big,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “I thought we got in the middle, I can think of a handful of threes that we looked and thought it would go in. At one point we were 1-for-13 [on 3-pointers]…If you make a couple of those threes a lot of things loosen up.”

After breaking the slump with a 3-pointer by Braden Norris, the Ramblers scored seven points in 1:35 seconds before being held scoreless for the final 5:48 of the half. Oregon State scored 11 points, and forced two turnovers, during that span with Thompson leading the charge, scoring seven, to give the Beavers a 24-16 halftime lead. The Ramblers were an abysmal 4-for-23 at half with Cameron Krutwig knocking down three of the team’s four field goals. The rest of the team shot 1-for-18.

“I said it since the beginning of the year, our guys want to win,” Thompson said. “You know they will be able to step out of their comfort zone, all of us really, just step out of our comfort zone and make plays that we might not be used to making.”

The Ramblers were held 33% shooting, 22% on 3-point attempts. Oregon State’s victory was the third tournament game holding an opponent to under 35% shooting. The Beavers have also held their last six opponents under 25.2% of their 3-point attempts.

“Our guys, when they’re locked in, we work on this stuff,” Tinkle said. “People wonder why we stumbled early… It took time, and I’m just so thrilled for the people that never wavered in their support…This one’s for them.”